It is Der Klassiker next for Borussia Dortmund, but this was no classic. Yet a ninth win in 10 Bundesliga games means Dortmund can face Bayern Munich on Tuesday in fine shape after Wolfsburg were defeated 2-0 in symbolic fashion.
Lucien Favre’s mid-season switch to a back three gave Dortmund added impetus and the two wing-backs he liberated to advance both scored. Remarkably, Raphael Guerreiro and Achraf Hakimi now have 16 goals between them and, on one of Erling Braut Haaland’s quieter afternoons, they showed men with defensive duties have their own propensity to prove prolific.
It was the second successive week when Dortmund faced a team who kicked off in sixth place and, once again, they dented their victims' chances of securing Champions League football.
A damaging day for Wolfsburg was compounded when Felix Klaus got a red card for planting his studs into Manuel Akanji’s calf, referee Daniel Siebert looking at the monitor before dismissing the substitute.
Dortmund, however, were rather more emphatic in thrashing Schalke 4-0 seven days earlier. They will need to be better to beat Bayern especailly as Wolfsburg subdued their front three for long periods. Julian Brandt, who was outstanding against Schalke, was altogether more muted, apart from switching flanks to create an overload for the opener.
Guerreiro is a rarity among wing-backs, both in his potency and his capacity to get into scoring positions so frequently. His third goal in two games was taken from the sort of spot a forward may normally occupy. Indeed, the cross was meant for Dortmund’s striker. Brandt and Hakimi combined on the right and Thorgan Hazard supplied a low cutback. It was intended for Haaland but, uncharacteristically, he missed his kick. Enter Guerreiro, arriving behind him to provide the calm finish.
His right-sided counterpart was similarly precise when he drove in the second. Dortmund had rarely sprung terrific counter-attacks until Jadon Sancho, who had come on for Brandt, led a swift break from his own half before unselfishly finding the overlapping wing-back. Hakimi scored the eighth goal of his productive season.
Yet those attacks were isolated affairs as Dortmund scored with their only shots on target. They played on the front foot from the start, enjoying plenty of possession, but they were not at their most penetrative. Equally, however, they were not troubled defensively before the break.
Then Mats Hummels’ 250th Bundesliga game for Dortmund was curtailed when he was removed at half-time. Dortmund hope his withdrawal, a precautionary measure, will allow him to be fit for his reunion with Bayern but it created difficulties.
Dortmund had less conviction at the back without Hummels. His departure allowed a fit-again Emre Can to make his comeback but almost permitted Wolfsburg to equalise. Renato Steffen darted into a Hummels-shaped hole in the Dortmund defence to meet Wout Weghorst’s flick-on. The Swiss should have scored. Instead his shot clipped the bar on its way over.
Steffen later connected sweetly with a volley that Roman Burki parried but Weghorst had too little service and too often Wolfsburg marred a promising opportunity by failing to provide the final pass.
There was a different kind of finality as Dortmund confirmed before kick-off that Mario Gotze will leave the club for the second time this summer. He is still only 27 but he can feel yesterday’s man compared to some of their youthful attackers. Perhaps the only way is down after scoring the winner in the World Cup final at 22 but the descent into an afterthought has been a sad affair. This time, it is safe to say, Bayern will not be signing him.